The Village and Lady in the Water are the filmmaker’s protest songs,” says the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Carrie Rickey. “The 2004 film, about an isolated religious community, criticizes fundamentalists who shelter their flock from the modern world. The new movie damns cynics who cannot take social action and connect with others in a meaningful way.”
Rickey writes very concisely and quite well, and it’s clear from the piece she’s a Shyamalan fan. One presumes this has something to do with hometown loyalties and diplomacy, as she doesn’t include her reactions to Lady in the Water in the piece. The idea behind the piece is to observe the minutiae of Night’s life in a smart, gentle way.
She mentions that Night’s last four films “have collectively taken in more than $1.5 billion” which is closer to $10 bill” when you “consider that box office represents on average 16 percent of a film’s revenues,” and she quotes Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson as saying “only John Lasseter at Pixar can boast a record like Night’s,” says Thompson, adding that Lasseter “didn’t write and direct all his movies.” But the Lasseter comparison is wrong/incomplete, as David Poland has taken the time to point out.
Elsewhere in the piece she writes that “short-term profits are nice, but long-term resonance matters more to Shyamalan. He uses a different metric. The filmmaker read in Malcolm Gladwell‘s Blink about the cola wars, in which Pepsi won the supermarket aisle ‘sip test’ but Coke was the victor in the ‘take-home’ contest, being the beverage consumers drank at backyard barbecues. ‘I measure the success of a movie by the degree of difficulty plus the aspiration times the take-home effect,” he says. Staying power is what counts.”
This is all very nice, but let’s cut to the chase by repeating something I said earlier: the best thing Night can do for himself now is to direct one or two first-rate scripts that he hasn’t written, and make hits out of them. The second best thing he can do is to give up on the idea of reaching huge audiences. He needs to abandon the mid-budget realm and go into the indie world and make films that he just wants to make and forget about monster profits. It’s clear to me after reading a lot about him over the past couple of weeks that Night is a prisoner of his own legend, but also of a plush country-estate lifestyle.
A person as rich as Night, a man who lives through dreams but subjecting himself to such strictly regulated and heavily-insulated circumstances, can’t hope to connect with life’s unruly desperation.